Okay, so this chapter is more a short fragment, but I wanted to post it now, before the driving starts, as I wanted to hear from you. Do you know where this is going yet? Let me know after…but this is nowhere near finished…and is just a couple of pages long…
Charles stared at Claire’s berth, the porter by his side aghast at the sight. Seawater was running from the mattress onto the rolling floor of the compartment, while fist-sized chunks of ice continued to rain down from the ceiling – then he looked up and saw the vortex. Shimmering blue, like a tornadic sphere embedded with the woodwork, it made not a sound yet more and more ice fell out of it, hitting Claire’s hands as she tried to protect herself.
“What’s goin’ on in there?” the porter cried.
“Must be something wrong with the air conditioning,” Charles said, reaching in and pulling Claire from the compartment.
“They ain’t no air conditioning in this car, mister.”
“Then where’s this ice coming from?”
The old man stuck his head in the compartment and looked around. “I don’t know…I just don’t know.”
“Is it snowing?” Charles said, pointing to the window.
“No, sir, it sure ain’t. Why does…it smells like the ocean in there…what’s goin’ on?”
Charles bundled Claire in his robe and helped her to his compartment, and he grabbed a washcloth and tried to staunch the flow of blood coming from a shallow laceration on her scalp, and he heard the porter run to the end of the car, perhaps summoning the conductor.
And sure enough a gaggle of men appeared a few minutes later, inspecting the car generally then making a thorough inspection of Claire’s compartment – before coming by to check on her.
“We’re sure sorry about this, Congressman. We can’t find anything that might have caused this. Do you have any idea what might have happened?”
“No sir, I sure don’t.”
“We’ll be coming to Salt Lake City soon enough, if we need to summon a doctor…”
“Thank you. I’ll keep an eye on her and let you know.”
“Yessir,” the conductor said, then he shook his head and left, talking to his men as they walked to the vestibule.
“What happened, Claire?” he said when he was sure they were alone again.
Her breathing was strange now, deep ragged gulps followed by brief, shallow sighs. “I’m so cold,” she cried.
“It’s warm in here, Claire. What are you feeling now?”
“Water. Cold water. Icy pinpricks…”
“What do you see?”
“The ship…the bow was torn off in the impact, ice was falling on us…”
“Us? Who was with you…your father?”
“Yes, he’s with me now, speaking to me…”
“What is he saying?”
“‘Change course, now. Change your heading.’”
Her eyes flickered, then opened, and she finally seemed somewhat aware of her surroundings… “Where am I?” she asked.
“You’re safe now, on the train, with me.”
“Yes. We’re nearing Salt Lake, and you took a nasty blow to the head…”
“A blow? What…?”
“Ice. Your berth is full of seawater, too. More than the last time, I think.”
Her breathing became shallow and fast, and she looked around Charles’ compartment…the mahogany walls and the brass fittings seemed jarring to her. “Well fell, on the wheelhouse, then ice started falling…”
“What do you think your father meant? Change course…?”
“He shouted a warning to the wheelhouse but they didn’t react, they never saw it coming, and the ship just plowed into the berg.”
“They never saw…? You mean?”
“I don’t think there was anyone there. The ship felt empty, like we were the only two people onboard…”
There came a light tapping on the door, and Charles found the porter standing in the narrow corridor with a arm full of towels. “Thought you might be needin’ these, Congressman.”
“Thanks. Is there any alcohol onboard, anything I could use to clean this wound?”
“I don’t think so, but I’ll go see. Might be somethin’ in the kitchen…” the old man said as he scurried away, then Charles turned to Claire. “You say you were alone, with your father?”
“I’m not sure. It feels so far away now. Not real anymore…”
“That ice was real enough, Claire. The cut on your head is, too.”
“I could have done that to – myself,” she said, beginning to cry. “I could have scratched myself in my sleep…?”
“What? How? What are you saying? Do you want to go look at all that ice? There must be twenty pounds of it on your berth…and I saw it falling from something in the ceiling?”
“Something? What do you mean, something?”
“I don’t know what it was, but it looked like a blue sphere, spinning round and round.”
“Blue…? I saw something blue…just before the ship hit…”
And as suddenly she entered a trancelike state; her body grew rigid and her eyes settled into a blank stare…
Nothing. He could see she was barely breathing now, too, so he shook her. Gently at first, then with more urgency – and still nothing but a vacant stare…until he noticed the room was suffused with a shimmering blue glow…
He looked around, saw he was on the deck of a ship, and that it was very cold out…
Then he heard someone overhead shouting “Iceberg, dead ahead!” and he turned, saw the looming mountain of ice not a quarter mile ahead. He felt Claire at his feet and looked down, but another man was leaning over her now, leaning over a seven year old girl, and he didn’t need to ask the man’s name.
Moments later he felt the berg ripping into the ship’s hull once again, and he wondered what it was going to feel like to die in these icy waters…
(C) 2017 Adrian Leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkuhnwrites.com